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The Ranking of the Goods at Philebus 66a-67b

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image of Phronesis

At the very end of Plato’s Philebus Socrates and Protarchus place the goods of a human life in a hierarchy (66a-67b). Previous interpretations of this passage have concentrated upon its relevance to the good human life, including the allowance of (true and pure) pleasures. This view picks up Plato’s metaphor of a mixture of reason and pleasure, but the ranking of the goods is emphatically a vertical stratification and not a mixture in which all elements are equally fundamental. In this article I argue that each and all of the higher ranked goods are necessary conditions for the goods of the level immediately below. The ranking represents an attempt to identify as far as possible what is responsible for the characteristics of the good in human life, and therefore to narrow down the definition of the good itself.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Classics, Emory University 221F Candler Library, 550 Asbury Circle, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA, Email:


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